It appears to me that rather than the country independents having the balance of power and being the most important block of votes, it seems that every single person in parliament has been elevated in importance to the point of being almost as important as the Prime Minister or Opposition leader. One strand of evidence is that no matter how egregious Wassisname's usage of a Union credit card was, he has been afforded a sort of cabinet protection from dismissal as strong as it would be for the PM.
Something similar is happening to the Liberals in that every sitting member has been more obliged than ever to take a disciplined part in the voting process to take advantage of any slip-ups by the government to try to force an early election or embarassing backflip on policy.
With the Boat people issue, I feel that the populist "tough" approach has shown itself to be completely dependent on context. When boat-people are imagined as a *group* the populist notion is that they are undeserving and cheating the system. As soon as they are individualised and humanised (for instance, unaccompanied children), the populist notion flips to an assumption of innocence ie. that they should be processed *TO* decide whether they are deserving of refugee status. These are contradicting views, and a large section of the population holds them simultaneously. No law can preemptively and correctly act under these expectations. Constantly changing the laws, or even talking seriously about changing the laws keeps people smugglers on their toes without necessarily prejudicing the individual cases - Therefore a series of backflips on policy is the perfect policy in itself - especially if the overall refugee intake is allowed to increase from our dismally low quotas.
As far as the Carbon Tax is concerned, I am glad it is going through in spite it being one of the least popular policies I could ever imagine making it through *ANY* parliament. I think once it is in there it will be shown to be no more distorting or painful than the GST, with a lot less red tape for the average individual or business.
I do think it unfortunate that the Carbon Tax will get the blame for electricity price increases, when the reality is that it is the fault of exorbitant feed-in tariffs combined with the uncertainty of infrastructure expenditure that will be incurred due to the revised architecture of energy transfers required.